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Long Island Testimony

Long Island Testimony

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

137-139 West 25th Street, 12th Floor
New York, NY 10001-7277
Tel: (212) 627-2227
Fax: (212) 627-9314

May 13, 2008

Good morning and thank you for your attention. My name is Milan Bhatt, and I am the Worker’s Rights Advocacy Coordinator at the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC). The NYIC is a statewide umbrella policy and advocacy organization for over 200 groups throughout New York State that promotes justice and opportunity for immigrants and refugees.

I am appearing before you today to testify in strong opposition to Introductory Resolution No. 1105 (“IR 1105”). IR 1105 would cripple the local economy by putting an estimated 16,000 local contractors out of business and devastate the lives of tens of thousands of Suffolk county workers and families. While the proponents of IR 1105 claim that the purpose of the bill is to level the playing field for businesses in Suffolk County, the real intent here is to penalize hard-working immigrants for political gain. If Suffolk County passes IR 1105 today, it will act in the worst possible interests of its all its residents. It will only fan the flames of misunderstanding and hostility towards local immigrant communities and setting the wrong example for other municipalities statewide and nationally.

The passage of IR 1105 will have the gravest consequences for immigrant workers—the backbone of our economy—who are most likely to be victimized by wage-and-hour violations and hazardous working conditions. As we have testified in the past, we believe that if Suffolk County was serious about improving working conditions, it would take steps to increase protections for workers, not to further marginalize them. The real crisis facing Long Island and the rest of the state is the exploitation of reliable labor to increase profit margins, resulting in a race to bottom and a polarizing of the economy. To effectively address this crisis, New York should continue to strengthen enforcement of its own labor law enforcement, not assume the responsibilities of federal immigration agents. The State DOL has already started to do this by hiring more labor investigators, conducting workplace sweeps, and ensuring that immigrants are able to seek redress when unscrupulous employers fail to pay them according to the law. Suffolk County should follow in these foot steps.

Our work as a leading advocate for immigrant communities on the local, state, and national levels reminds us every day just how integral immigrants are to our country's prosperity. They make indispensable contributions to all sectors of our nation's workforce and our economic growth, to our religious communities and schools, to our neighborhoods and to many of us as members of our own families. We need immigrants in our communities if we want to retain a vibrant economy. Instead of promoting legislation that scapegoats and discriminates against hard-working immigrants, we should develop and support policies for realistic, just, and comprehensive solutions to fix our nation's broken immigration system.

On behalf of the NYIC's 200-plus member organizations throughout New York State, I strongly urge you to vote NO on IR1105. Thank you for your attention. 

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